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Arizona Lawmaker Pleads Guilty to Reduced Charges

March 12, 1991

PHOENIX (AP) _ A second lawmaker pleaded guilty today to reduced charges in a political corruption probe, and lawyers for two others said prosecutors threatened mandatory prison time if they don’t reach similar deals.

Under the plea bargain, state Rep. James Hartdegen admitted to three campaign-related misdemeanors in exchange for dismissal of felony charges of money laundering, bribery and conspiracy to participate in a crime.

The pact also provided for his resignation from office.

″I would rather not go out of political office this way, but a deal is a deal,″ he said.

Hartdegen was accused of taking $660 despite a $440 limit on contributions from any one couple. He is subject to up to 18 months in jail and nearly $5,000 in fines and restitution.

The prosecutors also agreed to drop racketeering allegations that could have cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars in assessments and to make no recommendation as to sentencing.

″I hope there’s no jail time at all,″ Hartdegen said.

He said he decided to plead guilty because the racketeering lawsuit could have ″sucked you dry financially.″

″I’m 45, and my kids are 10 and 8,″ he said. ″I’d just as soon spend it on their education as spend it for the next year or so defending myself.″

Lawyers for two other defendants said that the chief deputy county attorney, Jim Keppel, had offered them plea bargains as well and had threatened to invoke a legal doctrine that would require lengthier prison sentences unless their clients plead guilty by April 1.

One of the lawyers, Robert Parrish, rejected the offer and demanded dismissal of all charges against his client, former Rep. Bill English.

The other lawyer, Thomas Martinez, said he was still considering the offer and predicted it would be a hard decision for his client, Sen. Jesus Higuera.

The charges stem from a sting in which informer Joseph Stedino posed as a mob-connected gambling advocate and offered cash in return for political support. Seven lawmakers and 10 others were indicted on bribery-conspiracy and related counts.

One lawmaker, Bobby Raymond, and a lobbyist, Rich Scheffel, pleaded guilty early in the case, but the others have all pleaded innocent.